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With gay sports split, New Yorkers have two chances to play and to cheer

Last Thursday, New York got an introduction to Chicago and a taste of what to expect during the Gay Game being held there beginning July 15.

Held at Eugene’s in Chelsea, the Team New York fundraising event was well attended, with giveaways, information, and acts that will be performing in the Windy City—but if you’re one of those New Yorkers still wondering “What’s in it for me?” the presenters had some answers.

Kile Ozier, a New Yorker who is director of the opening and the closing events for the Gay Games, said, “It’s for more than just New Yorkers, it’s for everybody who knows anyone who’s gay.” Among the performers who will be in Chicago and were on hand were Matthew Cusick, formerly of Cirque de Soleil, and the actress and singer Shavonne Conroy.

Ozier designed the opening and closing for the 1994 Games in New York and was excited about what he’ll be doing in Chicago.

“What happens on the floor of the stadium will change the way the Olympics starts presenting,” he said, perhaps a tad hyperbolically. “It’s unlike everything that’s ever been done.”

With a smile on his face and a drink in his hand, Ozier was circumspect about the details.

“It’s a complex tapestry of narrative and experience,” he said. “I think that everybody in the world who ever had to overcome an obstacle will be crying.”

What New Yorkers should get moved about though according to Kevin Boyer, one of the Games’ vice chairs, is making their reservations. Boyer emphasized that 11,000 athletes will participate—with the largest teams, in order, from Chicago, San Francisco, and New York—and that good hotel rooms are filling up fast. He acknowledged that most venues are accessible by subway so that accommodations outside downtown could well work out for visitors.

Boyer sweetened the pitch for Mets fans by pointing out that they will be playing the Cubs in Chicago the same week as the games. For those looking for parties, Rick Schmutzler, one of the Gym Bar co-owners, will host his official New York party on Friday July 21, just before the closing weekend. He said the event will be at Metro, “a rock concert hall by Wrigley [Field, where the Cubls play] half the size of Roseland where they hold a lot of gay events.”

Schmutzler lived in Chicago for 11 years before moving to New York and considers the Games a bit of a homecoming, and has been instrumental in drumming up support for the Games. More than 180 out of a total of 600 New York athletes signed up through Gym Bar. He wants all New Yorkers to go whether they come to play or come to watch.

Cusick became well known through an HIV discrimination law suit against Cirque de Soleil when that company initially tried to rescind a 2003 job offer after learning of his status. He will display his talents during the opening ceremony.

“I feel very honored to be a part of an organization such as the Gay Games where you’re able to be who you are in your competition sport,” he said, adding, “and not be scared of being discriminated against.”

After the Games, Cusick returns back to New York and does not plan to attend the Out Games beginning July 26 in Montreal, Cirque de Soleil’s home city.

Other New Yorkers have had to make tough choices about whether to attend Chicago’s Gay Games or Montreal’s newly formed Out Games. Ruth Gursky, the former president of Team New York plans to go to both, despite the difficulties.

“I wish the powers that be from both sides didn’t make us choose, but being from New York it’s fairly convenient to go to both,” Gursky said. “They put athletes in a tough position, by not compromisi­ng.”

Gursky will run the half-marathon on Chicago’s breathtaking Lake Shore Drive, but be merely a spectator in Montreal. She supports team members going to both, and so far about 450 Team New York members are hitting Montreal. After all, this athletic split, Gursky said, “isn’t the Mideast crisis, this isn’t the Cold War.”

Things might even be better with two events, she suggested.

“I think the fact that there is now competition has made the organizations put on a great show,” Gursky said.

Team New York’s current president, Christian West, thinks there are advantages to having both events as well. One is that if you can’t make it to one, you can go to the other.

“It’s an opportunity for more athletes to get involved and experience since not all people can make the [Gay] Games,” he said, adding, “I am in favor of athletes going to both, and I am supporting both,” even while acknowledging that Team New York’s “board voted to show more support to the Gay Games,” since they “have done a lot for the LGBT community” over the years.

The Gay Games will be held in Chicago from July 15 to 22. For a complete schedule of events, venues, travel options, and how to get involved, visit gaygameschicago.com. The Out Games will be held in Montreal from July 26 to August 5. For a complete schedule of events, venues, travel options, and how to get involved, visit montreal2006.org.

At last Thursday’s fundraiser for Team New York, Team member Alan Anderson, Shavonne Conroy, Team president Christian West, and Trai la Trash celebrate, as did Matthew Cusick, the former Cirque Du Soleil gymnast who will perform at Chicago’s Gay Games opening ceremony. MICHAEL T. LUONGO

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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